By Mark Kawalya
Uganda is set to launch a satellite in September 2022, the feat being the first for the country. Known as the PearlAfricaSat-1, the satellite is the latest project to come from the Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project.
According to a senior official, the satellite will be released into low Earth orbit from the International Space Station. The Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, said that the initiative is a collaboration with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Uganda’s station, which is situated at the Mpoma facility, already has two antennas and will act as an operations and communication center for satellites that have been launched by the government and universities. The current antennas on the site serve Intelsat’s Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean satellites.
Data from the satellite will be transmitted to the ground station at Mpoma, which is found in central Uganda’s Mukono district.
Uganda also signed a collaborative research agreement with the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech), Japan. The purpose of the agreement is to enroll and upskill three graduate engineers to design, build, test, and launch the first satellite for Uganda.
The PearlAfricaSat-1’s core mission is a multispectral camera payload that will facilitate the provision of 20-metre resolution images that Uganda will use to monitor land use and cover analysis, water quality and soil fertility. They will also play a pivotal role in Uganda’s oil and gas sector by being deployed to monitor the East African crude oil pipeline. Similarly, the satellite will be used to give more accurate weather forecasts by using remote sensor data that can detect oncoming drought and landslides. Once in orbit, Uganda’s ground station will monitor the device’s health status for a few days before embarking on its mission.
“The data from this satellite will be used for meteorology, environmental monitoring, urban planning, mineral exploration, and disaster management, among others.” Kasaija said.
Uganda has committed significant resources for the development of this technology, with $2M going to research and development and another investment of $200,000 set aside to improve infrastructure at Mpoma.